Ex-Wallabies coach Jones slams state of rugby nation
IT is often said the first step to getting better is admitting you have a problem.
And former Wallabies coach Alan Jones pulled no punches in his hard-hitting interview with Fox Sports News as he bemoaned what he believes is a broken model in Australian rugby.
Jones, who led the Wallabies to their historic Grand Slam triumph in 1984, slammed the state of the game as "terrible" and in "big trouble" as the SANZAAR axe continues to hover Australia's beleaguered Super Rugby teams.
Jones argued that the bloated 18-team format - including five struggling Australian sides - was harming the game and that the ARU had taken its eye off the ball by not sufficiently nourishing the grassroots.
"The game derives from schoolboys, club rugby, provincial rugby and then the Wallaby side," Jones told Fox Sports News.
"Now, we're not spending enough money on the schoolboy stuff - it's almost forgotten and unacknowledged.
"The club side is basically abandoned by Australian Rugby, the provincial stuff (Super Rugby) is awful - the standard is terrible.
"We've got people appointing coaches, who have never coached, so I think the wrong people are coaching.
"And by the time we get to the top - we're in trouble."
Jones said the transport and accommodation costs for five Super Rugby teams - "enough to break the Bank of England" - could be better spent elsewhere.
"I think the model is wrong and as a result of that rugby is suffering.
"No one should kid themselves: rugby in this country is in big trouble and I think people are pretending it isn't happening.
"It's happening all right - pick up your paper today and you have to turn 15 pages from the back before you actually find any mention of rugby.
"I think the ARU is not up to it.
"I hate saying that but they don't have answers to any of this.
"They've presided over this stupid Super Rugby thing which seemingly wants to incorporate every country in the world.
"It's too big, it's too unmanageable and people can't identify with any of this."
Jones used a building analogy to explain what he'd like to see happen.
"We have got to pour money into the grassroots.
"Rugby is no different from you building your own home.
"Now, if you don't spend money on the floor, there's no point in building a roof.
"If, on the other hand you want to spend all of the money on the roof, and there's no decent floor, the roof will collapse.
"We've got to go back to the floor of the game.
"We're being overtaken in schools by soccer and AFL, there are fewer kids playing schoolboy rugby, we've abandoned the Sydney grade competition."
Jones harked back to his own coaching days when Queensland and New South Wales were dominant provincial forces in world rugby.
"That was the source of my Wallaby side and that was the source of our strength.
"We've tried to change the model.
"There's a golden rule about sports - you never vary a winning game.
"We've varied a winning game and here we are - we're not winning.
"You're not going to get anywhere in denial are you?"
The Wallabies - runners-up in the 2015 Rugby World Cup - are ranked third in the world behind New Zealand and England.
None of Australia's Super Rugby teams look like title contenders this season and they are yet to beat a New Zealand team in 2017.